Museum of the Red River: Oklahomas Natural History

On the border of Oklahoma and Texas lies the Red River (of the North), which has always played a large role in the development of the United States. When the Europeans arrived on this country’s shores, westward expansion was inevitable. The Red River was an integral part of this westward spread.

museumBut before the Europeans, there was – of course – our Native American founders: those who actually founded this country, who loved the land and treated it with respect, and whose spiritual lives meshed with their physical selves so perfectly. These were the first peoples to settle along the Red River and use it for travel, trading and a source of food. And it was these people who initially used the clay from the banks of the Red River to make pottery, beads and a number of other items.

It is the history of these indigenous peoples that helped found Idabel, OK’s Museum of the Red River in 1975. And it is the spirit of their, and other groups of the time period, artistic talents that helped the museum grow into the worldwide, multi-cultural celebration that it is today. Now, over 17,000 square feet of residence houses exhibits, samples of archaeological artifacts, classrooms, and even the odd dinosaur skeleton!

Inside the museum, visitors find collections from all over the world: currently 8 regions: North America, Central America, South America, China, Japan/Korea, Central & Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and Africa. They also have a Fine Arts and Natural Sciences collection. While not all artifacts are on display at once, the museum does offer 6-8 rotating exhibits each year with a selection of the 20,000 items from the museum’s current overall collection!

And they aren’t finished collecting, by any means! Gifts, donations, acquisitions… each of these methods continually expand the museum’s collection of artifacts.

Did we mention a dinosaur? The Museum of the Red River is home to Oklahoma’s official State Dinosaur: Acrocanthosaurus atokensis: a carnivorous dinosaur that somewhat resembles a streamlined Tyrannosaurus Rex, standing on two large hind feet with small, clawed forearms, an elongated tail and head (with plenty of sharp teeth), and a small crest/fin running down the length of its back. This specimen was found within 10 miles of the museum’s current location, near Atoka, OK! A full 50% of this dinosaur’s bones were recovered, including the complete skull. What was not found was scientifically recreated using clues from the found bones and structure, resulting in the nearly 40-foot-long skeleton on display today.

The museum also hosts special events and workshops: a masquerade mask class and ball were featured in April, and a beading workshop is scheduled for May 16 (for those guests who may be interested).

Our origins shape who we are today. So while you’re enjoying a southeast Oklahoma cabin getaway at Beavers Bend Creative Escapes, why not make the short trip to 812 East Lincoln Road in Idabel and learn more about this area’s natural history? You’ll discover plenty about our Native American heritage and how we became what we are today!

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